SpaceX has made history twice last week in launching two NASA astronauts and docking the Crew Dragon capsule with the International Space Station, a first for a commercial spacecraft. Although it was just the first of many planned crewed missions, CEO Elon Musk seems intent on making sure the company remembers what it’s really all about, launching 100 or more people into space aboard the Starship and its future kin.
Given the popularity of its Falcon 9 rockets and, now, the Crew Dragon capsule, it’s almost to easy to indeed get distracted from SpaceX’s ultimate goal. After all, you need consistently reusable rockets to make space travel more economical and you need to prove you can safely carry humans back and forth to even begin colonizing the Moon and Mars. Those two pieces are only the stepping stones and Musk now wants the company to focus on its ultimate goal.
A company-wide email from the CEO urged that everyone make the Starship its top priority, accelerating progress on its largest spacecraft “dramatically and immediately”. It is, after all, the prototype of the ship that will be SpaceX’s main workhorse in the future. Unlike the Falcon 9, whose first stage is the only part that lands safely, the Starship is designed to be reusable in its entirety, becoming the space-faring equivalent of modern-day airplanes.
The Starship has been in development for quite a while now but has suffered major setbacks that may have called its ambitions into question. Now that it has booster landings down to a “T”, Musk is confident it can finally funnel resources to developing and finishing the Starship.
Of course, it still has to prove its capability in launching humans to the ISS and Musk’s email does leave room for improving the Dragon’s chances of returning safely to terra firma. It’s pretty clear, though, that, at least for Musk, they are not entering the endgame.